Edina Police Face New Challenge Enforcing Open House Party Ordinance

Updated: 02/15/2013 10:42 PM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz

Many Metro cities have either social host or open house party ordinances, meaning it is against the law to have a party where minors are drinking alcohol.

Now, Edina Police say they are now dealing with hosts who won't let them in the door.

"I've been a police officer here in Edina for 24 years and when I first started, if there was a juvenile drinking party and we showed up, the parents would be like, 'Get those kids out of here, get them home.'" Now what we are running into is when we knock on the door, frequently we will have parents just tell us that we can't enter or tell us to get a warrant if we want to come in," said Edina Police Chief Jeff Long.

Long has seen a house party turn ugly.

"When we showed up, the kids were running out, the front doors, the back doors, they were coming out the windows, no exaggeration. And one person left without even having shoes on in the middle of winter and ended up being transported to the hospital all to avoid a ticket," Long said, recalling a recent party.

Edina was one of the first Metro cities to enact an open house party ordinance.

"You can't host a party for underage drinkers in the City of Edina. And if you do, it's a misdemeanor," Long said.

Homeowners can tell officers they cannot enter the home without a warrant.

"They are right, we can't just come into their home. But they are putting themselves, in my opinion, at a great deal of risk by not allowing us to come in. There are great civil liabilities that go along with juveniles drinking in your home," Long said.

Karen, an Edina parent, says parents may be hesitant to let police in because they are worried about the financial burden of a ticket or what a drinking citation could mean for a child's chances of scholarships or athletic standing.

"Both the parents and the police officers need to work together and not try to fight each other," Karen said.

Last summer Karen and her husband were out of town when her college-age daughter had a party at the house. The police came and Karen's daughter got two tickets: one for underage drinking and one for hosting.

"Never in a million years did I think this would happen and it did," Karen said.

"The consequence is pretty painful if you're caught," Karen said.

In Edina, the underage consumption ticket is at least $178 dollars. A judge decides the fine for breaking the open house party ordinance.

According to the Department of Public Safety, 88 cities and 21 counties have social host laws. The City of Greenwood, Carver and Winona counties have voted down the ordinances over the years.